The path to becoming a medical writer has been explained in previous blog posts, like the career medical writer guide, but it is a question that we are often asked over and over. It is a simple process yet not always the easiest endeavor to establish yourself in the industry with a continuous flow of work if you are freelancer, or a well paying position as a full time job.
Nevertheless, if you persevere you will undoubtedly be able to secure yourself a medical writing career, provided that you have the necessary skills and tools. The biggest mistake that most aspiring medical writers make at the outset is to rush into finding online writing work without taking the necessary steps to secure themselves as a career medical writer.
Here are some of the common questions we are asked by hopeful medical writers.
Do I need a medical qualification?
A medical qualification is not necessary but it is highly advantageous. You do not have to be a medical doctor. Even a health science degree is of benefit. However, aspiring medical writers without an academic background in medicine or the health sciences are unlikely to secure a well paying medical writing position in the long term.
Do I need to be a published writer/author?
Yes. It is almost always necessary to have work published on the internet if you are looking at online medical writing jobs. It can be as simple as an article on a medical website, even your own professional blog, or a short ebook. If you have written and publish a medical/health book then that is of course the best option.
Do research papers count for published work?
When it comes to online medical writing work, many clients and employers do not take research papers that you have published as a reference of your writing ability. Remember that online medical writing is largely consumer health articles. Research papers are usually considered as technical writing.
The most knowledgeable medical doctor does not necessarily make for the best medical writer in terms of consumer health content. However, the fact that you do have published research papers still holds weight in verifying your medical/health science background.
These days with the frequency of fake qualifications and dishonest resumé claims, most clients will want additional proof that you are a medical or health science graduate. A research paper with your name on it provides that additional verification.
Will I need a portfolio?
Most of the time clients do not ask for a portfolio via email because these portfolios could have been fraudulently created. There are instances where aspiring writers buy articles from reputable medical writers and then pose as the creator of this content.
Instead clients will ask to see your article published on your name somewhere on the internet, or ask for a reference from a website or media agency that has used your medical writing service. They may also give you an assignment on specific topics to see how capable you are as a writer.
How should I start my career as a medical writer?
First and foremost you need to get your resumé or curriculum vitaé (CV) in order. It also needs to correlate with the information that you have uploaded on professional networking websites like LinkedIn. Then you need to get a few references as a medical writer and especially for online consumer health content. This is not always simple.
Many clients do understand that not all newcomer medical writers have these types of reference. They will instead settle for seeing your work online, like on your professional blog or on a medical website with your name on the article.
Lastly, if you have no other choice, you can write an article and submit it to article directories like EzineArticles.com and use this as part of your online portfolio. Many clients are aware that if you are able to pass EzineArticle’s relatively strict editorial process then you most likely do have a relatively proficient writing ability.
Do I need to do a medical writing course?
Medical writing courses are not necessary. Many successful online medical writers have established their career without doing any course. However, the industry has become highly competitive and a medical writing course can give you the edge among other writers.
These courses should focus on online medical content writing and provide some background knowledge in search engine optimization. Having the ability to write articles within SEO guidelines is always beneficial for the client as it forgoes optimization by a third party consultant.
What should you charge a client?
Pricing yourself correctly is a key factor in determining whether you will secure continuous work. Many new writers set their rates based on what they think they are worth or what they would like to earn for a full monthly salary. However, it is important to understand that your services are only worth what a client will pay for it.
The best way to decide how much you should charge is by scouring through freelance websites like Freelancer.com and Elance to see what clients are willing to pay. Your rates need to be market-related and in online medical writing this may initially be very low.
Once clients are satisfied with your work, they will be willing to pay higher rates. Diving in with very high rates is a sure way to end your online medical writing career even before it gets off the ground. However, this does not mean you have to keep charging rock bottom rates.
As you will see from our article on how much medical writers earn, you can make a very good living as an online medical writer. This does not happen overnight. It takes time to get recognized and established in the industry.